Is it legal or even common to require business partners to sign a prenup in the event they get married?


I'm considering starting a company with a few friends. Each of us are single guys. We're wondering, is it legal or common for a company to require other owners to sign a prenup in the event they decide to get married? What about some kind of partial prenup that says you're spouse simply can't go after your share of the company in the event of a divorce?

We've openly discussed the idea and we're all okay with it; but can't really find info on if that is legal or not. Any examples to go off of or legal statutes? We're in Illinois if that makes a difference...

Founders Agreement Business Partnerships Agreements

asked Jan 28 '12 at 13:58
124 points
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  • What country? Have you considered consulting with lawyer? – Ross 12 years ago
  • Interesting q but not sure what possible problems you foresee, care to elaborate? – Ryan 12 years ago
  • Why don't you put in the company agreements that any shares that might transfer are subject to right of first refusal by the other equity holders? That solves the general case that may not be specific for spouses. Make an exit agreement, etc that is fair to all but allows the continuing partners to limit the ownership. Find a jurisdiction to incorporate in that allows the board to force a sale for any shareholder? – Tim J 12 years ago
  • I agree with Steve Jones below, this has got to be a wind up ... Having a prenup in no way should impact your business plan and if this is a focus then I fear that it will take away from more pressing business issues. – Tim 12 years ago

3 Answers


What is common is to have stock that can not be transferred, known as letter stock or restricted stock. It would be perfectly legal to have stock that could not be transferred to anyone other than back to the company for a period of years (10 for example). This is in fact common as a way of keeping the shares from falling into the hands of strangers for whatever reason.

What would most likely be problematic would be a restriction saying it is OK to transfer to some people but not others such as you can sell to a man but not a woman. Such discrimination based upon factors such as race, sex etc is generally considered against public policy.

answered Jan 29 '12 at 10:30
Jonny Boats
4,848 points
  • Even though I think the specific example I'm using might have ruffled some feathers the basic point is we just want to set up some sort of agreement where wee don't have to worry about each others personal lives interfering with our company and your answer works perfectly for that. – Dave 12 years ago


I'm guessing that'd be worthless anywhere in the EU, due to human rights legislation, as it would be restricting your right to family life.

The whole thing is ludicrous really, as it makes no sense. No court anywhere is ever going to accept that when it comes to divorce settlement, as the spouse was not party to the agreement, so is not bound by it.

How about, you guys all agree to have pre-nup's with anyone you marry, as this might actually offer you some protection, but really, I hope this is a wind-up, because if you're serious it doesn't bode well for your business if you think this is important.

Sorry to be so blunt. Of course, IANAL, IMHO, YMMV, etc.

answered Jan 28 '12 at 21:48
Steve Jones
3,239 points


You do not say where you are - and laws are country specific. In germany it would likely be null and void. It has to be worded different, but you can not avoid certain legal situations (like transfer of shares in event of death as part of the inheritance). You will have to talk to a lawyer for that - this totalyl depends on where you are.

answered Jan 28 '12 at 18:42
Net Tecture
11 points
  • He does say - Illinois - that is in the US – Tim J 12 years ago

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